You can glimpse at the legend of Bussy Adam and make a case that it could be measured in numbers — 457 to be exact, the number of wins he collected as head coach at Newton (Mass.) North High School, the most of any high school coach in Massachusetts history.
However, his impact on the game in this region is much greater than any number could convey, and the influence he has had on countless players in his 39 years of coaching the Tigers is immeasurable.
Adam’s legacy in Newton began to shape sometime around 1973, when he entered high school and began to take sports more seriously.
He moved on to play lacrosse at Boston State under the tutelage of Gordy Webb before returning to his alma mater to serve as an assistant coach with the Tigers’ lacrosse team from 1980 to ’86.
In 1987, he was given the reins as head coach and began building one of the most formidable programs in the region, guiding Newton North to state championships in 1993, ’95 and ’96.
Just one year shy of what would have been a 40th season at the helm, and with his son, Hunter, preparing for his senior season with the Tigers, Adam began weighing his decision to step away from the high school game, ultimately deciding it was indeed time, after much deliberation.
“There’s lots of things you’re thinking of, because it’s such a huge decision,” Adam said. “I think it was a culmination of everything. If I waited until next year nobody would ask that question; they would just expect that you did 40 years, you coached both of your kids, now you move on and watch them play in college.
“The fact that I cut it one year short, I don’t regret the decision. I’m looking forward to watching Hunter play in high school and having the opportunity to travel and watch (older son) Bryce play.”
A two-sport (football/lacrosse) sophomore at Tufts, Bryce Adam learned early on the breadth of his father’s influence on his players.
He was able to watch his father in action while getting reps as a youngster at Newton North practices, but it was the stuff off the field that let him know how important his dad was in other boys’ lives.
“It wasn’t on the field; it was more of those random phone calls, those random drop-ins he would get throughout the week, throughout the year,” Bryce Adam said. “That’s how you saw his legacy play out.”
Bussy Adam cultivated a family with Newton North lacrosse, preparing teenage boys to become upstanding young men and quality citizens in the community.
He also has a knack for what his players brought to the table, allowing him to simplify the game when needed and crank it up when all cylinders were firing.
“Some of the guys I’m closest with to this day and I still text with, even across the country, they’re Newton North grads who are out coaching at extremely high levels and have been very successful. You’ve got to credit Bussy for the foundation of that,” said Tom DeMaio, a 1988 graduate who went on to coach at Northeastern and Norwood High School before taking over at Santa Fe Christian School in San Diego. “Bussy was ahead of his time in picking out players’ strengths and weaknesses and communicating that to his players. My opinion, looking back, he was playing chess when other coaches were playing checkers.”
In the aftermath of his decision to end his reign, Adam received a flood of emails and calls from past players wishing him well and sharing stories about their time playing under him.
It gave Adam pause for reflection and the realization of what kind of true impact he had on so many, regardless of any final outcome on the scoreboard,
“I’ve had the opportunity to meet some great, great kids. Lacrosse was just the vehicle to make those connections,” he said. “It was definitely not about the wins and losses. Certainly, I remember the state championship games like they were yesterday and some of the difficult losses over the years. But, for me it was more about the relationships with the kids.
“I didn’t realize the importance of the influence you have on kids until after I announced it and got all of these wonderful emails reminding me of all of these different events and different situations that occurred. There were very few talking about a big win or a disappointing loss. It was mostly about helping kids be better human beings and teaching them life lessons. Sometimes that gets lost in coaching.”
His own son had similar recollections in looking back on playing under his father, noting that the duo was “a little bit too stubborn, a little bit too passionate to live in the same house.”
Bryce was reminded of postgame dinners at home, and while discussing a good win was always enjoyable, the tensions that simmered between the two after a tough loss or performance was palpable until one would crack a smile.
“I’m excited to see him out at games a little more,” Bryce said. “I’m excited to see what this holds for him. He’s going to miss it; we all know that. But I think it will be a good thing for him.”